Equipping the Future Leaders of Our Country

In the wake of last year’s mid-term elections, I reflected on how people’s voting habits form. How do we develop our worldview? Or, how do we choose our values? How do we decide what issues are a higher priority than others, when we’re forced to decide?

It is interesting to note that people tend to be shaped by:

  1. Their parents and other caring adults
  2. Their temperament and outlook
  3. The time in which they came of age

Most of us would agree that our parents played a huge role in our worldview, either by default or design. We observed what they valued, how they spoke and what they did as a barometer for our own lifestyles. Some of you reading this would say you followed your parents in their values and others would say you did the opposite of what your parents did, feeling they were insufficient role models. We also would agree, I suspect, that our temperament plays a role in how we see the world.

I would like to discuss Generation Z in light of when they’re coming of age.

Coming of Age

The data shows that voting habits tend to move from left to right, (or from liberal to conservative) with age. This likely occurs because the aging population wants to preserve what they created, what they saved or what they built their life upon. The young want to try new things and push forward. Sometimes, any change seems good to a young adult. Adopting and adapting is easier for youth; harder for elders.

This left to right pattern is predictable, until we examine a certain demographic.

The people born between 1950-1954 are different. This population maintained the worldview they developed in their college years, for the most part. The data shows their voting patterns stayed steady. So, what makes this demographic different?

People born within that window of time came of age between 1968-1972. Do you recall what was happening during that tumultuous time period? Consider this climactic and formative time of the Baby Boomers’ years:

  • Race riots in many places, including Detroit
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination
  • College campus demonstrations; militant student activism
  • Police clash with protestors outside Democratic Nation Convention
  • Robert Kennedy’s assassination
  • The Vietnam War was broadcast on TV, creating greater polarization
  • Black Panthers fought with police, leaving several dead
  • Rock music, the sexual revolution and divorce became more common

On the heels of 1972 was the revelation of the “Watergate Scandal” in 1973. Many people, especially young adults, grew suspicious, even jaded, about the government. Skepticism mounted, anxiety increased and people were thirsty for change.

Similarities with Generation Z

My point in this article is not meant to be a political commentary. Instead, I mean for it to offer you insight into the similarities that students today may experience.

Today’s youngest population is growing up in tumultuous times, as well. As they are growing up, they too have seen a myriad of changes and issues in society:

  • School shootings and expanding gun control debate
  • Riots and demonstrations regarding police brutality
  • The first minority president of the United States
  • The #MeToo movement in response to assaults and indiscretion
  • Immigration and ethnic diversity issues on a greater scale
  • Gender fluidity, transgender identity, and sexuality diversity

I am not suggesting we need to correct Generation Z in their political views, as much as I am suggesting we must be aware of the volatile times in which they’re maturing. Millions are anxious, millions are becoming more private with their information and millions more are seeking to become activists in the midst of today’s culture.

Our Response to Generation Z

If there is any kernel of truth in what I’m saying, we must be careful and intentional as we lead our young into adulthood and into places of leadership. Let’s work with them wisely and equip them to grow into:

  1. Hopeful adults…not fearful ones
  2. Optimistic visionaries…not pessimistic ones
  3. Healthy people with boundaries…not co-dependent, addictive adults
  4. Lifelong learners…not people who get stuck in what they know
  5. Active leaders…not mere followers who drift with the culture’s current

Let’s build some leaders who are ready for the times.

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Equipping the Future Leaders of Our Country